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SABC contributes to testing times for cricket in SA

Broadcaster will not have ball-by-ball radio commentary for India series

Proteas players during the SA national cricket team training session at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg this week.
Proteas players during the SA national cricket team training session at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg this week.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Perhaps perfectly in tune with their reputation as a capricious, weak at the knee, barely coherent or audible batting partner, the SABC has responded to criticism of the decision not to transmit ball-by-ball radio commentary for the Proteas’ Test series against India.

There had been widespread condemnation when news broke that ball-by-ball commentary on Radio 2000 would be absent from the airwaves during the series. The outcry was perhaps amplified by Cricket SA’s (CSA) decision, in consultation with others, to not sell tickets for the Test series.

The SABC attempted to allay fears in a statement, but it still fell well short of addressing the actual concerns.

Dropping the mic

“The South African Broadcasting Corporation has noted the misinformation on social media regarding the broadcast of the Protea Inbound Tour matches on Radio 2000,” the corporation said in a statement. “The social media status updates insinuate that Radio 2000 will not broadcast this tour and this is not the case.

“The SABC would like to dispel this misinformation and state that Radio 2000 will broadcast three live updates (duration of three to five minutes) every hour and stream full live commentary on the station’s website.”

That falls considerably short of actual ball-by-ball radio commentary on a platform that can be widely accessed around the country.

The SABC over the last decade or so has battled to uphold its mandate to deliver live broadcasts, and at times radio commentary of major sports events in the country.

There is a sentiment that the SABC’s disinterest in cricket on Radio 2000 is not solely based on commercial reasons but that the sport, which has stumbled from one misadventure to the next, has done little to advance its cause.

Culpability goes around

CSA earlier this week urged the corporation to reconsider its stance, though they too have contributed to the angst experienced by cricket fans around the country.

“Cricket fans are understandably disappointed at not being able to attend the forthcoming Test and ODI series against India,” CSA said in a statement. “The decision was necessitated by the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, and the fourth wave the country is grappling with.

“The India series has generated huge interest across the country (and globally), with fans eager to get a blow-by-blow account. With not being able to be at the stadiums, cricket fans will be relying on broadcasters to enjoy the live action. In addition to television broadcasts, fans are drawn to the unique perspectives provided by the ball-by-ball commentary on Radio 2000, SABC’s flagship sports radio platform.

“CSA therefore urges the board and executive management at the SABC to reconsider their position, and to provide radio broadcast and commentary on the series. This will be in fulfilment of its public broadcasting mandate and serve the needs of millions of SA  cricket fans. It is worth highlighting that many thousands of blind cricket fans are totally reliant on radio commentary to enjoy their favourite sport. This deprives those fans of their enjoyment of the game.”

The first Test starts on December 26 at Centurion followed by Tests at the Wanderers from January 3 and Newlands eight days later.